Investigate the otherworldly heart of Kathmandu with our Swayambhunath and Bouddha Tour. Find the antiquated Swayambhunath Stupa, known as the Monkey Sanctuary, with its dazzling perspectives and rich history. After that, take in the tranquil setting of Bouddhanath Stupa, one of the world’s largest and most significant Buddhist temples. Go along with us for a remarkable excursion into Nepal’s lively culture and strict legacy.


Swayambhunath stupa is located to the northwest of Kathmandu at the top of green hill. The meaning of Swayambhu in Nepal Bhasa is ‘self-sprung’ or ‘self-manifested’. Hindu and Buddhist devotees go around the Stupa for spiritual awakening, inner peace, and blessing. To get on top of the pilgrimage, climb the 365 stairs from the front side which is the most recommended route that pilgrims take to enter Swayambhu on foot. The boundary that separates Hindu and Buddhist is very blurred here as we will see a blend of Hindu and Buddhist which we may not see in other places of the world.

Mythology of Swayambhu

According to Swayambhu Purana (Buddhist scripture about the origin of Kathmandu valley and also provides information about the first and the second Buddhas in Buddhism), during the Golden Age, the entire valley was submerged under water. Vipaswi Buddha heard about the lake and he arrived with his disciples at the lake. They noticed that there were many plants but not a single lotus, so Buddha planted a lotus seed. Miraculous Lotus blossomed from the lake after eighty thousand years and the Swayambhu manifested himself in the form of an eternal self-existent flame, the Jyotipura over which a stupa was later built. Swayambhu means “Self-Created.”

Time passed by and one day an enlightened Manjushri became aware of the beautiful place filled with an enormous lake. Then he cut a gorge at Chovar with his sword to drain water to the south, thinking the site would be more accessible to pilgrims. The scar can be still found at Chobar Gorge. The water drained out of the lake and the valley was formed which is known as Kathmandu today.

After many years Shantikar Acharya who came to Nepal on pilgrimage thought it might become difficult to preserve the light in the future and requested guidance from Manjushree. Manjushri instructed Shantikar Acharya to build a chaitya over the flame to protect it, hence the stupa of Swayambhu was erected.

Symbolism of Swayambhu

The whitewashed dome at the base represents the earth and around the base of the stupa, on each of the four sides of the stupa, you’ll find the statues of the Panch Buddhas (five Buddhas or Five Tathagatas) which have their own meaning. It represents the 5 cosmic elements (ether, water, earth, fire and air) which were introduced by Vajrayana as embodiments of the five cosmic elements. Each Buddha strikes an identifying mudra(pose). In Nepal and Tibet Pancha Buddhas are the central features of Vajrayana Buddhism.

The Five Buddhas are:

Vairochana (white color, ether/sky): occupies the center and is the master of the temple.

Akshobhya (blue color, water): represents the cosmic element of consciousness and faces the east.

Ratna Sambhava (yellow color, earth): represents the cosmic element of sensation and faces the south.

Amitabha (red color, fire): represents the cosmic element of Sanjna (name) and faces the West.

Amoghasiddhi (green color, air): represents the cosmic element of conformation and faces the north.

Architecture of Swayambhu

Swayambhu stupa is one of the sacred ancient Buddhist pilgrimages which has a half sphere with a cube on top of its apex painted with the eyes of Buddha looking in all four directions. It is filled with numerous artifacts and we can find a thirteen-level golden spire. There are multiple shrines, temples, monasteries, and museums. Each open side of the cube faces north, west, east, and south. On top of the cube are 13 tiers which represent the stages of spiritual realizations needed for Buddhahood. There are carvings of the Panch Buddha (five Buddhas) on each of the four sides of the stupa. At the entrance, you will find two lion statues guarding.

Pilgrimage Sites at Swayambhunath

Vajradhatu Mandala

As the 365-long stairs finish we get the view of an impressive gilt Vajra on the top of a smooth base of gilt copper, representing the dharmadhatu, in the form of the mandala of Manjushree. It was placed by King Pratap Malla. He also built other two shrines on the premises.

Pratapur and Anantapur

Pratapur and Anantapur are two tall white shikar-style temples that were built by King Pratap Malla in 1646. These two Shikara temples are dedicated to the King himself, Pratap Malla, and his wife, Ananta Priya.

Pratappur Temple: This temple is dedicated to Vasupur or Vasupur Mahadev, a form of Lord Shiva.

Anantapur Temple: This temple is dedicated to Anantapur Mahadev, another form of Lord Shiva.


Agnipur is a revered shrine dedicated to Agni, the Hindu God of Fire. It is distinguished by its guardian statues, two formidable lions that stand at the entrance, symbolizing protection and strength. Agni, one of the principal deities in Hinduism, is associated with fire and the divine messenger who transports offerings to the gods. Devotees come to Agnipur to pay homage, perform rituals, and seek blessings related to purification and energy.


Nagpur is a mystical tank dedicated to Naga, the Snake God, revered in many Hindu traditions. This small water body holds spiritual significance as it houses a snake idol at its bottom. The idol becomes visible when the tank is empty, revealing the sacred symbol of Naga, associated with protection, fertility, and renewal. Pilgrims visit Nagpur to offer prayers and perform rituals, especially during festivals dedicated to snake deities.


Vayupur is a shrine that honors Vayu, the God of Wind and Air. Vayu is an important deity in Hindu mythology, symbolizing life force and breath. The shrine serves as a place where devotees come to worship and seek the blessings of Vayu, who is believed to control the wind and provide vitality and health. The site is known for its serene atmosphere, allowing worshippers to connect with the natural elements and embrace the essence of air and life.

Vasundhara Mandir

Vasundhara Mandir is a significant temple at Swayambhu dedicated to Vasundhara, the Buddhist Goddess of Wealth, Prosperity, and Abundance. Often compared to Lakshmi, the Hindu Goddess of Wealth, Vasundhara embodies similar attributes of fortune and success. The temple attracts worshippers seeking blessings for financial well-being and material prosperity.

Swayambhu Buddhist Museum

The Swayambhu Buddhist Museum, though modest in size, is a hidden gem often overlooked by visitors. There are compelling reasons to visit this museum: it houses a collection of rare Buddhist statues, including an exquisite statue of a Sleeping Buddha. Moreover, the museum is free to enter, making it an accessible cultural and educational experience for all visitors.

Agam House (Aagan Chhen)

The Agam House, also known as Aagan Chhen, serves as a residence for Buddhacharya priests and their families. This sanctuary provides a communal living space for those dedicated to the upkeep and spiritual functions of the Swayambhu site. The house plays a crucial role in maintaining the religious traditions and practices of the community.

Temple of Harati: The Protector of Children

Situated right behind the main stupa and near the statue of Amitabha Buddha, the Temple of Harati is constructed in the traditional pagoda style. Harati is venerated as the protector of children, and families visit the temple especially when their sons or daughters are ill. It is widely believed that homage paid to Harati can lead to the cure of diseases, making the temple a vital spiritual site for seeking health and protection for children.

Statue of Dipankara Buddha

Tucked away on the north-western side of the stupa, behind a courtyard filled with small chaityas, lies the black statue of Dipankara Buddha. Known as the ‘Buddha of Light,‘ Dipankara is one of the past Buddhas who achieved enlightenment before Gautama Buddha. This beautiful statue, dating back to the 7th century, is a significant historical and religious artifact, offering insight into the ancient Buddhist heritage.

The Chaityas Courtyard

On the northwestern side of the Stupa, visitors will discover an open courtyard adorned with numerous small chaityas. This serene space offers a place for reflection and spiritual connection amidst the historic and religious ambiance of Swayambhu.

Shantipur (Place of Peace)

Shantipur is a mysterious temple known for hiding a secret underground chamber that is always locked. Only Buddhacharya priests are allowed to enter the temple.

The legend says that in the 5th century, the Tantric master ‘Shantikar Acharya’ sealed himself in an underground chamber beneath the temple and subsequently attained an immortal state. Devotees believe that Shantikar is still living and meditating there. In 1658, King Pratap Malla went into the underground chamber to seek help to end the drought in Kathmandu. After going through many scary underground chambers, the King eventually found Shantikar who gave him a mandala. The King left with the Mandala and as soon as he came out of the temple, the rain started.  

The Monasteries 

Karma Raja Maha Vihar Monastery: The Karma Raja Maha Vihar Monastery is located on the northern side of the Swayambhu stupa. Part of the Karma Raja Maha Vihar Monastery, the Karma Kagyu Lineage Monastery is one of the most important schools of Tibetan Buddhism and one of the oldest schools of Kagyu tradition.

Dewa Dharma Monastery: The Dewa Dharma Monastery is worth visiting for its bronze icon of Buddha and its traditional Tibetan paintings. Located on the northern side of the site, the beautiful Whochen Thokjay Monastery is also well worth a visit.

The World Peace Pond

The World Peace Pond is located on the western side of Swayambhunath stupa. There’s a statue of Buddha standing on a lotus flower in the middle of the pond. According to the tradition, if you toss a coin into the peace pond and if your coin reaches the metal bucket, your wish will be granted.

The Monkey Pool

Watch the monkeys diving, swimming, and playing in the water tank kept for them to bathe. The Monkey swimming pool is a nice (and fun!) place to see.

Vasubandhu Stupa

The Vasubandhu stupa is located between the Swayambhu Hill and the Manjushri Hill, at the western entrance to the Swayambhu Nath. The 4th Khamtrul Rinpoché (1730-1780) said that this is the site where Vasubandhu passed away and that his relics are enshrined in this stupa.

Manjushree Hill

In the west of the Swayambhunath hill, there lies Manjushree hill. It is believed that Manjushree and his two companions stayed on this hill after draining out the water. His disciples later built a stupa in this spot, dedicated to both Manjushri and his consort Saraswati.

Western Stupa

The west from the main stupa, you will reach a smaller stupa near the tourist parking. Just behind is a gompa surrounded by rest houses for pilgrims and an important shrine to Saraswati, the goddess of learning. At exam time, many scholars come here to improve their chances, and schoolchildren fill the place during Basanta Panchami, the Festival of Knowledge.

The Buddha Amideva Park 

Located at the base of the Swayambhu hill, the Buddha Amideva Park was built in 2003 and is known for its three huge golden statues, representing Chenrezig or Amideva, Shakyamuni Buddha and Guru Rinpoche constructed in 2003.

Bouddhanath Stupa

The present Kalpa is called a Mahabhadrakalpa (great auspicious eon). The five Buddhas of the present Kalpa are Kakusandha (the first Buddha of the Bhadrakalpa), Konagamana (the second Buddha of the Bhadrakalpa), Kassapa (the third Buddha of the Bhadrakalpa), Gautama (the fourth and present Buddha of the Bhadrakalpa), Maitreya (the fifth and future Buddha of the Bhadrakalpa). The Boudhanath stupa is said to entomb the remains of Kassapa Buddha. It is located on the ancient trade route from Tibet which enters the Kathmandu Valley by the village of Sankhu in the northeast corner and continues to the ancient and smaller stupa of Chabahil named Charumati Stupa (often called “Little Boudhanath”). It then turns directly south, heading over the Bagmati River to Lalitpur, bypassing the main city of Kathmandu (which was built later).

The Gopālarājavaṃśāvalī says Boudhanath was founded by the Nepalese Licchavi king Śivadeva (c. 590–604 CE); though other Nepalese chronicles date it to the reign of King Mānadeva (464–505 CE). Its colossal and ancient stupa is regarded as one of the world’s biggest and has been built on a stepped octagonal base and inset with alcoves representing Buddha and his teachings. After the Chinese invasion in 1959, Tibetans in thousands came to this famous Buddhist Chaitya and energized the stupa. The stupa is surrounded by various temples or ‘gompas’. The atmosphere of the whole place lightens up with zest as the fragrance of incense drifts through the air. The chanting of monks and the creaking of prayer wheels can be heard while strolling around the base. It is one of the prime sites for pilgrims and tourists in the country.

Legends Behind Bouddhanath Stupa

One of the most famous legends says that in the 4th century, King Dharmadeva installed stone water taps (known as ‘Dhunge Dhara’ in Nepali) in the palace courtyards but no water came out from the taps. The King decided to consult his astrologers and was told that receiving water would require the performance of a human sacrifice, more specifically ‘the sacrifice of the most virtuous man in the kingdom’. The King realized that only he and his son were eligible. The King decided to sacrifice himself but not wanting his son to know that he would perform the sacrifice on himself, he instructed him to decapitate a shrouded form lying near the palace the same night. His son, Prince Manadeva, followed his father’s instructions; he decapitated the covered corpse and horrified, saw the head of his father fly to the Vajrayogini temple. Once his son realized he killed his father, he was regretful. The deity Vajrayogini told Dharmadeva’s son, the new King Manadeva, that the only way to undo his sin was to let a cock fly from the temple and then, wherever the cock lands will be the place where Manadeva should build a stupa for his father’s remains. The cock eventually landed where Boudhanath’s stupa stands today.

There is another legend. According to Buddhist mythology, it is said that the Buddha of compassion, Chenrezig, was visiting all the realms of existence, from the realms of the Gods to the Hells, and he saw all beings suffering everywhere. His mission was to help all sentient beings reach enlightenment. But even though many of them attained enlightenment, it seems that the number of them in pain wasn’t going lower. Feeling compassionate for the pain of all sentient beings, Chenrezig wept and vowed to liberate all beings from the misery of this world. From his tears were born two deities. One of them decided to be reborn in the human world and to build a huge stupa to pacify the Earth. Her name was Jadzima. Jadzima married 4 men and each of them died; her first husband was a swine herder, the second a horse keeper, the third a dog keeper, and the last one a poultry man. She gave birth to 4 sons from these 4 husbands. Jadzima accumulated a lot of savings throughout the years, and she eventually decided to build the Great Stupa of Peace. She went to see the King of Nepal to ask him for land where she could build the stupa. The King gave her land and she started the construction of the Great Stupa with her 4 sons. Jadzima died before the Stupa was achieved, but her sons eventually completed the Stupa. It is said that Boudhanath stupa entombs the remains of Kasyapa Buddha, the 27th of the 29 named Buddhas, and the 6th of the 7 Buddhas of Antiquity.

Architecture of Bouddhanath

Boudhanath Stupa looks like a giant mandala or diagram of the Buddhist cosmos. As in all Tibetan mandalas, four of the Dhyani Buddhas mark the cardinal points, with the fifth, Vairocana, enshrined in the center (in the white hemisphere of the stupa). The five Buddhas also personify the five elements (sky, water, earth, fire, and air), which are represented in the stupa’s architecture.

There are other symbolic numbers here as well: the nine levels of Boudhanath Stupa represent the mythical Mt. Meru, the center of the cosmos; and the 13 rings from the base to the pinnacle symbolize the path to enlightenment, or “Bodhi” hence the stupa’s name.

At the bottom, the stupa is surrounded by an irregular 16-sided wall, with frescoes in the niches. In addition to the Five Dhyani Buddhas, Boudhanath Stupa is closely associated with the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara (Padmapani), whose 108 forms are depicted in sculptures around the base. The mantra of Avalokiteshvara (Om Mani Padme Hum) is carved on the prayer wheels beside the images of Avalokiteshvara around the base of the stupa. The base of the stupa consists of three large platforms, decreasing in size. These platforms symbolize the body, brain, and speech. Boudhanath is topped with a square tower bearing the omnipresent Buddha eyes on all four sides.

Instead of a nose is a question-mark-type symbol that is the Nepali character for number one, symbolizing unity and the one way to reach enlightenment through the Buddha’s teachings. Above this is the third eye, symbolizing the wisdom of the Buddha. Surrounding Boudhanath Stupa are streets and narrow alleys lined with colorful homes, Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, and street vendors.

Religious Practices and Ceremonies

Visitors will find Boudhanath alive with religious practices. Lamas, pilgrims, and tourists alike engage in kora, walking clockwise around the stupa while chanting mantras and spinning prayer wheels. Annual festivals like Losar (Himalayan New Year) and Buddha Jayanti (Buddha’s birthday) are celebrated with great enthusiasm, featuring prayer flags, butter lamps, and traditional music.

Robinson Crusoe Holidays offers a wide range of travel and tourism activities in Nepal, catering to various interests such as adventure, culture, spirituality, and relaxation. Here are some of the notable activities and tours they provide:

Yoga Tour in Nepal Brief Insight

Yoga physical is a mental and spiritual practice or discipline which originated in ancient Nepal. Yoga is one of the six Astika (orthodox) schools of Hindu philosophical traditions. Yoga Tour in Nepal is a great experience in the Himalayas.

Outline Itinerary